Having the experience of being involved in a lawsuit isn’t the same as being a knowledgeable lawyer. Although, many people seem to think otherwise. Often, people freely give legal advice over the internet the moment they spot familiarities in someone else’s case. It’s understandable; some people like to help and others enjoy sharing knowledge.
However, just because a case worked out for one person doesn’t mean they’re qualified to advise others facing the same situation. Taking legal advice from a non-lawyer over the internet can prove destructive to your case. It can also get the advice-giver in trouble.
Skilled lawyers don’t hang around in chatrooms or forums
It’s far better to contact a lawyer through their professionally designed website rather than a discussion forum. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be given accurate advice on a discussion forum because lawyers know better.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t listen to others who have experience in the courtroom with your situation. You can learn much from others who have been in your shoes. Just be cautious about taking action based on what others tell you.
Even when cases appear identical on the surface, not every case will turn out the same. There are always additional circumstances that can cause the court to rule differently than expected. Only a skilled lawyer experienced with multiple cases can know how your circumstances might affect your case.
You need a lawyer if you’re going to sue somebody
Some people believe they don’t need a lawyer when they’re going to sue somebody who has clearly broken the law. They’ve researched enough to understand the law, and think the law will work automatically for them. Non-lawyers online often tell people they have an “open and shut case” and this makes people feel overly confident about winning their case.
The truth is, if you’re going to bring a lawsuit against somebody who has broken the law, you still need to build and prove your case in court. The law is more complex than just determining if the law was broken. Once you’ve established the law has been broken, it takes skill to negotiate the damages award.
For example, insurance companies are notorious for not settling perfectly legitimate claims. Insurance companies are for-profit companies and will do whatever they can to keep money in their pockets.
Insurance companies even deny legitimate personal injury claims, which leaves many people in debt from their medical bills. This is common with bicycle accidents. Attorney David Blackwell points out that when a bicyclist is injured in an accident, it’s common for motorists and insurance companies to blame the bicyclist even when they were following state traffic laws. This is a big reason not to believe your case is “open and shut” without speaking with a lawyer.
Without a lawyer, the average person doesn’t stand a chance in a personal injury case. They might win the case, but they won’t win the amount of compensation they would have with a lawyer on their side. Not being properly represented can keep an injured person in debt for the rest of their life.
Giving legal advice comes with heavy responsibility
When a layman offers up legal advice online, they’re risking being sued if someone takes their advice and things don’t turn out the way they had hoped. When legal matters are discussed online, most people preface their posts with, “I am not a lawyer” to protect themselves from a lawsuit.
On this Metafilter discussion, one user points out, “often a responder who is not a doctor or a lawyer nonetheless has pertinent first hand experience with the issue at hand, and wants to share that experience, with the understanding that the experience is a personal one, and that professional advice should be sought.”
Legal advice is a liability
When a lawyer provides you with free legal advice, they’re doing it with the understanding that you might become their client. However, the advice they give before taking someone on as a client is different than the advice they give paying clients.
Lawyers know where the lines are for this liability. If you’re receiving mountains of in-depth, free advice from someone online, they probably aren’t a lawyer.
Providing in-depth advice for non-clients puts a lawyer’s license on the line. They aren’t going to do anything that might imply a client-attorney relationship when there isn’t one.